Greetings from the other San Jose
November 2, 2002
Hola mis amigos!
My name is Elizabeth, and I am Mrs. Pederson’s daughter. She has a picture of me on her desk if you want to see what I look like. I am going to be writing to you every month because I am having an adventure that I want to share with you.
For the past month, I have been living in San Jose, Costa Rica. Can you find Costa Rica on a map? What are the countries above and below it? Costa Rica is a democratic country, just like the United States. Have you ever heard anything about Costa Rica before? What are some of the things that you have heard? If you have any questions about Costa Rica, please write me, and I will answer them. I live with a family of “ticos” in a suburb of San Jose called Poas. Costa Ricans call themselves ticos the way that we call ourselves Americans.
Poas is built on a huge hill. No matter which way you walk, you are either going up or down. Picture a house built right in the middle of C Hill, and imagine that every day, you have to walk down C Hill to get to school and back up C Hill to get home. Unlike C Hill, Poas is very green, and there are lots of pretty flowers and trees.
The kitchen of my house is outside, and my tica mother cooks all the meals on a wood stove outside. There is a tin roof over the kitchen in case it rains, which is lucky because it rains here almost everyday, and it’s not very fun to eat wet rice and beans!
San Jose has a lot in common with Carson City. San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica, just like Carson City is the capital of Nevada. San Jose is in a valley surrounded by mountains, just like Carson City. There are people with light skin and dark skin and people of all different religious beliefs and nationalities, just like in Carson City. There are nice people and mean people and rich people and poor people, just like everywhere in the world.
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You can buy Snickers bars and Coca-Cola at nearly every store, and if you feel like fast food, you can go to McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken or Taco Bell. You can see American movies in the movie theater (though the movies are not as new as the ones at the theater in Carson City), but the movies have Spanish subtitles! Some Costa Ricans even have satellite television and watch shows like “ER,” “Friends,” and MTV.
Since San Jose is a big city (it’s much bigger than Carson City or even Reno or Las Vegas), there are even stores that sell American brands of everything from deodorant to ice cream!
Still, there are also many differences between San Jose and Carson City. Imagine that when you walk down Carson Street, you have to walk in the street because the sidewalks are crowded with the stalls of street vendors selling every fruit and vegetable that you can think of (and many that you have never even heard of). Imagine that whenever you look at the mountains, they are bright green instead of blue.
Imagine that every morning when you come down for breakfast, instead of cereal with milk, you get a big bowl of rice and beans. Imagine that whenever you go to the bathroom, you have to throw your toilet paper in the trash can because you can’t flush it down the toilet. Imagine that many times when you want to take a shower, the running water in your house doesn’t work, and you have to pour water on yourself from a bucket to get clean. Can you picture it?
Right now, I go to school every day just like all of you. My school is a little different though because I am learning how to speak Spanish and also how to work with kids in Costa Rica.
I never have to learn any math or do any English assignments! It’s enough work just to learn how to speak another language! Are any of you wondering why I am living in Costa Rica and eating rice and beans for breakfast and showering out of a bucket? I am part of the Peace Corps. Do you know what that is? Do you know anyone who has ever been in the Peace Corps?
The Peace Corps is a governmental program that sends American volunteers to other countries to make friends with people and help them do things that they may not know how to do themselves. Or, in some cases, the people might know how to do the things, but they don’t have enough workers or the right supplies. There are Peace Corps volunteers in many countries all over the world. Each country has different needs, and so every Peace Corps program is different. Peace Corps volunteers do everything from building bridges to starting businesses to teaching English, but in my program, we work with children and families.
In December, I will move to a permanent place in Costa Rica to live for two years. It could be near the beach or in the rainforest or even right here in San Jose. Where do you think it would be the most fun to live? It will be exciting for me to share another part of Costa Rica with you when the time comes!
I hope you all are working very hard in school and behaving well for Mrs. Pederson and Mrs. Cardinal. I know firsthand that Mrs. Pederson can be quite a workhorse, but take it from me, it’s best just to do what she tells you!
Your new friend,
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